Reviews

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Welcome to the folking.com review section.

The folking review team is a small, dedicated group of people with a passion and a commitment for the folk, acoustic and Americana music scene. They review the latest releases, each in their own inimitable style…

All our reviewers give their spare time to bring you this resource and we always looking for new people to get involved who share a similar passion for the genre to help lighten the load. If that sounds like you, then please email us here for more information about joining the folking review team.

Royal Albert Hall to Haslemere Hall – Phil Beer Band Gig Review

The Phil Beer Band rocking Haslemere Hall on 19th May - photo by Darren Beech Phil arrived hot on the heels of the Show of Hands 5th sellout concert at The Albert Hall and the memory of winning the public vote for 'Best musician' in this years folking awards still fresh in his ...
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JIM CAUSLEY AND FRIENDS – I Am The Song (WildGoose Records WGS420CD)

Young Jim Causley returns once more to the writing of his distinguished relative, Charles. I Am The Song, unlike the serious and sometimes mysterious Cyprus Well, is a collection of poetry written for children. As you might suppose many of the songs are quite short and Jim crams twenty-one of ...
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HARROW FAIR – Call To Arms (Roaring Girl RGO14)

Comprising Miranda Mulholland, violinist with Great Lake Swimmers, and Andrew Penner, Harrow Fair are a Canadian duo who first began working together as part of a Toronto theatre company and who take their name from an Ontario county fair. They both sing, while she plays violin and percussion and he ...
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DONALD BLACK – Bho M’ Chridhe (own label DB05CD)

Scottish Celtic harmonica might seem like something of a niche market and that’s what I thought at first – but wait. Bho M’ Chridhe translates as From My Heart and that is exactly where this music comes from. The tunes come from all over Scotland and even further afield and ...
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JANET DOWD – Home (Blue Cow Records)

Although Janet Dowd writes songs, and there are three of her own compositions on Home, her particular forte is in covering other writers. Her subjects are mostly Irish and an album like this will serve to introduce British audiences to some new songs, but she also encompasses Scotland and Australia ...
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THE TWISTED TWENTY – The Twisted Twenty (Penny Fiddle Records)

The Twisted Twenty are a septet of string players whom I suspect to be proper musicians. What makes then unique is their use of baroque instruments and their research in music of the 17th and 18th century. So what? I hear you say. Well, instruments of the period have a ...
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LIANNE HALL – The Caretaker (Market Square MSMCD182)

Lianne Hall used to be a punk. She was a member of Witchknot but I rather think that she was punk in the way that The Stranglers were; embracing the ethos but having rather superior musical skills. She’s originally from Peterborough and lived in Brighton before moving to Berlin. After ...
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GALLEY BEGGAR – Heathen Hymns (Rise Above Records RISECD208)

I have opined before that Galley Beggar’s albums, though excellent in themselves, never quite reflect the live feel of the band. The last album Silence And Tears went some way to redressing this imbalance, but their latest offering, Heathen Hymns, is much more in line with their live performances. The ...
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ALAN REID & RACHEL CONLAN – A Quare Yield (own label)

A Quare Yield is an album of mostly banjo and fiddle duets. I say mostly because Alan Reid also plays bouzouki and mandolin and, on one track, oud while Rachel Conlan occasionally swaps her fiddle for the Hardanger model and Marty Barry adds guitar. The tunes are mostly Irish but, ...
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SKIPINNISH – The Seventh Wave (Skippinish Records SKIPCD26)

The Seventh Wave is the seventh album to be released by Skipinnish and it is possibly one of the most enjoyable albums that I have recently been given the opportunity to review. When I agreed to take on the suicidal responsibility of reviewing new releases I was, unbelievably, excited about ...
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AMY McALLISTER – String On String (own label)

I’ll state now that anyone who sings ‘Matt Hyland’ is all right with me, especially when that anyone sings it as gorgeously as Amy McAllister does, even though she does omit the bribery verse. Amy is a singer, songwriter, harpist and fiddle player from Antrim and, after many years of ...
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BRINDLEY HUNT – Find My Way… (own label)

Staffordshire based singer/songwriters Barry Hunt and Bryan Brindley have formed a duo - namely Brindley-Hunt - and the result of this collaboration has led them to create a fabulous album, entitled Find My Way… Well known for their solo work individually, they have embarked on a little team work, and ...
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CHIP TAYLOR – A Song I Can Live With (Trainwreck TW057)

His fifth album in as many years, and his twenty-first studio recording in total, A Song I Can Live With falls firmly into what Taylor calls his stream-of-consciousness based songwriting, more spoken rather than sung and with rarely more than an acoustic guitar and Goran Grini’s keyboards for backing. I’ve ...
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TRACK DOGS – Serenity Sessions (Monde Green)

For those who don’t know, Track Dogs are an Anglo-Irish-American acoustic quartet based in Madrid comprising Sheffield’s Howard Brown, Ohio’s Robbie K Jones and, respectively from Co. Wicklow and Dun Laoghaire, Dave Mooney and lead vocalist Garrett Wall, their instrumentation taking in cajon, banjo, ukulele, mandolin and trumpet alongside guitar ...
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FRONT COUNTRY – Other Love Songs (Organic Records OR16882)

What I really like about Front Country is the way they take the styles of country music, its bones if you like, and take them off somewhere new. Other Love Songs is only their second album and already they sound like they’ve been doing this for years. Take ‘Storms Are ...
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SINGLES BAR 20

A round-up of recent EPs and singles The first of three self-released themed EPs set for 2017 from Devon duo INDIA ELECTRIC CO., pianist/violinist and accordionist Joseph O’Keefe and Cole Stacey vocals/ percussion, EC1M (Shoelay) offers five tracks variously coloured by influences drawn diversely from Ireland, Eastern Europe, Africa and ...
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SOUND OF THE SIRENS – For All Our Sins (DMF Records)

Sound of the Sirens consist of Exeter-based duo Abbe Martin and Hannah Wood. Their debut album For All Our Sins is released on May 5th and will then be toured around the country. The duo have built up a loyal fanbase with a number of EPs and live performances in ...
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JUPITER OWLS – The Fallow Cry Of The Jupiter Owls (Cupboard Under The Stairs)

Based in Frome, The Jupiter Owls began life as a duo comprising singer-songwriter/ guitarist John Libert and guitarist Ryan Steele but have subsequently added the rhythm section of Kev Jefferies and Kevin Reed to add extra live dimension to their Americana-tinged chilled folk-pop. Drawing their influences from the late 60s/early ...
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PORTER NICKERSON – Bonfire To Ash (Weasel Records WSL-1601)

Porter Nickerson are Willy Porter and Carmen Nickerson. Bonfire To Ash is their new album, released on May 5th. I haven’t stopped playing it since it came for review. Occasionally in life you meet someone that you feel you’ve known forever; listening to Bonfire To Ash was like this – ...
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HAZEYJANE – One (Tu-Kay Records TKHJCD01)

It’s almost impossible to pigeonhole Hazeyjane. At their heart is the songwriting of guitarist Chris Brown accompanied by Ash Tu-Kay, a pseudonym of producer and label boss Ashley Woodward. The line-up has recently been expanded but on One, their debut album, Chris and Ash do everything except for extra vocals ...
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REV HAMMER – Skald (own label)

It is always good when you hear that Rev Hammer has released a long awaited new album! He has done just that in the recently released Skald, featuring acclaimed guitarist and singer/songwriter Nick Harper together with Rev’s son Samuel Ryan, who is establishing himself as a singer/songwriter and about to ...
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LOWRI EVANS & LEE MASON – A Little Bit Of Everything (Shimi Records ShimiCD0011)

I have to confess that when Lowri Evans released her debut English language album I really wasn’t a fan and I wasn’t allowed anywhere near her records again. Things have changed in the decade since. Lowri’s voice has warmed somewhat and her songwriting has certainly matured. Lee Mason was her ...
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Standing ovations for Show Of Hands’ Big Gig

England's premier folk duo Show of Hands, once described as “the most famous unknown band in Britain”, brought the house down at the Royal Albert Hall on Easter Sunday with a ‘pull all the stops out’ show marking their milestone 25th year. Singer songwriter Steve Knightley and multi instrumental wizard ...
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PETE COE – The Man In The Red Van (Backshift BASH CD 63)

Pete Coe is one of the old guard, one of the last. He’s been in this business for more than forty-five years and still has all the moves. I expected The Man In The Red Van to be something of a political work, akin to It’s A Mean Old Scene ...
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TRADARRR – Further Tales Of Love! Death! And Treachery! (Hedge Of Sound HOS25)

Between their first and second albums Mark Jolley left has Tradarrr to be replaced by Tim Harries (more serious folk-rock credentials) and Phil Bond has moved on with his place taken by singer, fiddler and pianist Gemma Shirley. Thus Further Tales Of Love! Death! And Treachery! sees a seven-piece band ...
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NIGEL STONIER – Love And Work (Shameless SHAME017)

Nigel Stonier is probably best known as a producer and a man who writes songs with and for other people so it came as a surprise to discover that Love And Work is his sixth solo album but not that it’s a work of great class. I suppose that you ...
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BOO HEWERDINE – Swimming in Mercury (REVEAL072CDX)

Boo Hewerdine’s new album Swimming In Mercury will be released on April 28th and the single ‘Satellite Town’ on April 21st. He has a pedigree which stretches back more than thirty years and is acclaimed as one of the UK’s best songwriters: ‘Patience Of Angels’ was nominated for an Ivor ...
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ELEPHANT SESSIONS – All We Have Is Now (Elephant Sessions CDTES02)

This CD, All We Have Is Now, recently released by Elephant Sessions has nine exceptional tracks. Each one is a masterpiece of arrangements and instrumental skills. Many of the tracks are over five minutes long and should be described as ‘productions’. However, I find it difficult to place their music ...
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JON PALMER ACOUSTIC BAND – The Silences In Between (own label)

Will someone please explain why Otley’s finest folk-rock band are not huge stars. The Silences In Between is their third studio album – there’s also a rocking live set – and is as good as anything they’ve done. There’s plenty to enjoy here. ‘I Don’t Know’ is about love as ...
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BEAU –When Butterflies Scream (Cherry Red BEAUWBS1)

What with the likes of Steve Pledger and Will Varley the last couple of years have seen quite a resurgence in the protest song album on the UK’s contemporary folk/Americana circuit, but some have been doing this for years. I’ve written about Trevor Midgley aka Beau on these pages before ...
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EMILY MAE WINTERS – Siren Serenade (own label EMW 02)

Co-produced by Josienne Clarke’s musical other half, Ben Walker, and Laura Marling knob-twiddler Lauren Deakin-Davies, following on from her Foreign Waters EP (which Walker also produced and which earned her a Folking Awards Rising Star nomination), Siren Serenade is the debut album from Cambridge-based singer-songwriter, poetry enthusiast and sometime theatre ...
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ROVING CROWS – Bury Me Naked (own label RC008)

Based around Worcestershire and Gloucestershire they may be, but with fiddle player Caitlin Barrett and guitarist Paul O’Neil sharing vocals, Loz Shaw on bass, keys vocals guitars, clarinet and banjolina and Tim Downes-Hall on a variety of ethnic hand percussion, Roving Crows are very much of a Celtic folk rock ...
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CALAN – Solomon (Sain Records SCD2749)

I was a little nervous about reviewing the CD Solomon by the Welsh band Calan, released on 14th April. After all, it's been more decades than I care to think about since, as a student in North Wales, I picked up a few words of Cymraeg, and those few words ...
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MARK NEVIN – My Unfashionable Opinion (Raresongs Recordings MARKNCD005)

Some of you might be asking ‘What’s Mark Nevin got to do with folk music? Folk music should be traditional or nothing’. Others might say ‘No. Folk music should be expressing new ideas and challenging the establishment view’. And that, in microcosm, is the point of the title track of ...
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CHRISTY SCOTT – Amaranthine (Christy Scott Music CSMO1EP)

Amaranthine is a terrific five track EP released by Christy Scott. She has written all five of the songs and selected a well-respected group of musicians to support her. Christy has a great voice and had created a really enjoyable EP. However, I am having difficulty categorising it. Neither the ...
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BATTLEFIELD BAND – The Producer’s Choice (Temple COMD2108)

In late 2016 Battlefield Band was inducted into the Scottish Traditional Music Hall Of Fame which gave their long-time producer Robin Morton the excuse, if excuse were needed, to celebrate. Hence The Producer’s Choice, nineteen tracks featuring nineteen members of the band plus guest percussionists Donald Hay and Morton himself ...
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JOAN BAEZ – The Complete Gold Castle Masters (Proper PROPCD141)

Without a label and not having not made a studio album since 1979’s Honest Lullaby, in 1987 Joan Baez got back into the ring, signing with Danny Goldberg’s new Gold Castle with whom, over the next two years, she would release three albums (along with the Brothers In Arms compilation) ...
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ROGER KNOTT – Echoes In Time (Leg Room Records LEGCD116)

Echoes In Time is a slightly curious but very enjoyable blend of Englishness and Americana. All the instruments on Roger Knott’s ninth album (or possibly his thirteenth) were recorded by producer Thomm Jutz in Nashville while the vocals were recorded by Roger in England, which is where he lives. He ...
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THE FAR FLUNG COLLECTIVE – Far Flung Corners (Anna-Wendy Music FFC001)

Originally a schools-based music education project by the University of the Highlands and Islands in collaboration with Soundstorm Music Education Agency exploring the similarities and differences, past and present, between the cultural and physical landscapes of South West England and the Scottish Outer Hebrides, this evolved into Far Flung Corners, ...
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MIDSUMMER – The Stories You Tell (own label)

A new Birmingham acoustic folk outfit, Lizzy Daniel-Sam and Chris Taylor (who also plays guitar and mandolin ) are the Midsummer vocal and writing core, the line-up augmented by Ben Kyte (bass), Jenny Chen (violin), J Clay (trumpet) and Andy Gordon (accordion, uke, guitars, percussion) They’ve only been going a ...
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TUNEBOOK – Melody Lab (SHEEM02)

Melody Lab is a CD created by a group of fabulous Scottish musicians, Ross Ainslie, Simon Bradley and Mairearad Green joined by Mhairi Hall on piano, Matheu Watson on guitar and James Macintosh on percussion to “present an exploration of contemporary tune writing in the Scottish traditional context”. There are ...
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BEATRIX PLAYERS – Magnified (own label)

Lining up as Amanda Alvarez (cello), Jess Kennedy (piano, flute) and Amy Birks (vocals), Beatrix Players are an London-based Anglo-Spanish trio who, taking their name from from the Latin "viatrix" (meaning traveller, though Beatrix itself means she who makes happy), combine folk, jazz, classical and progressive. With influences that range ...
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SINGLES BAR 19

A round-up of recent EPs and singles KADIA are a young trio from Dorset who already have one album, East Of Alexandria, to their name. The Outlandish Collection is a five-track EP of traditional songs and tunes. The band comprises Lee Cuff on cello, double bass and piano; Chris Bailey ...
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CORMAC BEGLEY – Cormac Begley (Airt)

Who on earth would want to buy a CD of a solo artiste playing a concertina with no support from other musicians? Probably only somebody who is also a concertina player! That was my initial thought when I was first handed the CD Cormac Begley I was concerned as to ...
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NED ROBERTS – Outside My Mind (Aveline AVREC004)

He may be physically based in London, but Ned Roberts’ spiritual and musical home is clearly late 60s California, Outside My Mind, his second album, a relaxed collection of acoustic melancholic, love songs, the title of the opening track, ‘Drifting Down’, a fair summation of the mellow mood. Reminiscent at ...
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HARRI ENDERSBY – Homes/Lives (own label)

A rising new presence on the contemporary folk scene, Durham-born Harri Endersby has been putting herself about on the live circuit for the past four years, during which time she released her debut EP, Ivy Crown, to good reviews. Now here’s her debut album, Homes/Lives, an eleven track collection of ...
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HAV – Inver (Folkwit f0136)

As albums go Inver is a bit off the wall but you hope for that from the Folkwit label and I really like it. HAV are a multi-talented trio: Alex Ross, who is the band’s writer, Jonathan Bidgood, who plays a very special role, and Ian Paterson who plays bass ...
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CUNNING FOLK – Ritual Land, Uncommon Ground (Dharma)

George Nigel Hoyle is a man of many incarnations. He started out professional musical life as bassist with late 90s outfit Gay Dad, a band briefly hailed as the saviours of British rock, going on to join Crispin Hunt of The Longpigs (of Richard Hawley fame) in a short-lived new ...
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FAY HIELD live at the West End Centre, Aldershot

31st March 2017 Fay Hield and The Hurricane Party started their spring tour at a brisk pace – seventeen songs, including two encores, in a tight ninety minutes. I can imagine there being a bit of tension in this situation particular as Fay announced that ‘Fair Margaret And Sweet William’ ...
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PETER KNIGHT’S GIGSPANNER live at Forest Arts, New Milton

30th March 2017 During Vincent Salzfaas’ enforced absence from this tour, Peter Knight’s Gigspanner have replaced him with not one but two percussionists. On duty tonight was Gary Hammond of The Beautiful South and The Hut People – he’s got quite a track record – but the question remained: how ...
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AMY DUNCAN – Antidote (Filly Records FILLY002)

This CD, Antidote by Amy Duncan, is not generally my type of music but I really like this recording. Regretfully, the cover is somewhat minimal and does not explain the songs or their reasoning. It does tell us that Amy Duncan wrote all of the songs but I have to ...
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TERENCE WINCH, MICHAEL WINCH, AND JESSE WINCH – This Day Too: Music from Irish America (Free Dirt Records CTM-CD-002)

The CD This Day Too: Music From Irish America is very much what it says on the tin. It's a collection of tunes and songs with a pronounced Irish accent, performed and in some cases written by musician and poet Terence Winch, his brother Jesse, and his son Michael, aided ...
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JENN & LAURA-BETH – Bound (JBLB Records JBLB01)

Jenn Butterworth and Laura-Beth Salter have worked as a duo for eight years but Bound is their first album as a duo. The reason for this is simple; they have been far too busy. Jenn has worked with Anna Massie and the Rachel Hair Trio and most recently as a ...
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STEAMCHICKEN – Look Both Ways (Chicken Records STEAM16/3)

Steamchicken began life as a ceilidh band but have expanded their horizons considerably with a brass section and a powerful vocalist in Amy Kakoura. Look Both Ways is something like their fifth album and is possibly the definitive statement of jazz-folk. The album kicks off with the powerful spiritual, ‘Jericho’ ...
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SHORTSTUFF – Big Blue (Blonde On Blonde DCT16BB01)

When I first played this album I assumed that Shortstuff were American and had been playing the blues for years. Big Blue has a confident swing about it that invites you in and settles you down. In fact Dave Thomas and Hugh Gregory met in London and once enjoyed a ...
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VARIOUS – From Here: English Folk Field Recordings (From Here Sitw005)

They may be newcomers to the scene, but Stick In The Wheel are certainly making their mark, not just with their own recordings and associated artifacts, but in their involvement with the folk world in general, and the traditional in particular. Band members Ian Carter and Nicola Kearey serve as ...
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QUILES & CLOUD – Shake Me Now (Compass)

Although conveniently filed under NewGrass, there’s more to San Francisco based duo Maria Quiles and Rory Cloud that bluegrass, Shake Me Now, their third album, produced by label founder Alison Brown, evidencing traces of jazz, classical, blues and folk. With Oscar Westesson on upright bass essentially making them a trio, ...
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BENJAMIN FOLKE THOMAS – Copenhagen (LOUVAIO L00005)

Benjamin Folke Thomas was born on a small island off the coast of Sweden, mainly populated by evangelical Christians, but his third album takes it's title from across the Øresund; Copenhagen. Combining his upbringing with musical influences ranging from Leadbelly to Cohen and Jackson Browne means his work tends, perhaps ...
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DAVE BURLAND AND THE AWKWARD SQUAD – Okkard (Fat Cat FATCD037)

Dave Burland may have recorded one of the definitive folk albums of the seventies but he’s always been a rocker at heart as anyone who has been in the same room as Shagpile will testify. Alongside him in The Awkward Squad are two members of that band, Dave Fisher and ...
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FINTAN McHUGH – Wait Till The Clouds Roll By (own label)

Wait Till The Clouds Roll By is the debut album from young Irish singer Fintan McHugh. It has been available for a while but has only recently come into our possession and we feel compelled to bring it to your attention. Fintan plays guitar and cittern and for his instrumental ...
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